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Franz Erhard Walther's "Stand Pieces" presented for the first time at ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art
“work drawing of Nr. 27”, 1. work set, 1976/69 (pencil, water colour, oil colour 29,7 x 21 cm; double-sided). Collection Franz Erhard Walther Foundation. Courtesy Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris; Gallery Peter Freeman Inc. New York; KOW, Berlin; Galerie SKOPIA, Genf © VG Bild-Kunst 2012/ Franz Erhard Walther.

KARLSRUHE.- To actively integrate into the sculptural artwork the observer, who is otherwise condemned to mere contemplation – this was fundamentally new when Franz Erhard Walther first established it in his work of the 1960s. Participative object and textile sculpture formulated an offer to the observer to “use” the artwork, to “unfold” the sculpture and to rearrange it. With this, Walther has subjected the understanding of art and the relationship between art and its recipient to a fundamental re-evaluation and amplification. Today he is unquestionably one of the most influential artists of recent decades. Scarcely any other artist has been able to change the definition of what sculpture can be with such foresight and consequence as Walther has done.

The ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art is now showing, in the context of this year’s main exhibition theme of performativity, a large part of Franz Erhard Walther’s “Stride Plinthes” accompanied by the complete series of “Stand Pieces” that are presented for the first time.

Already in his early photographic works at the end of the 1950s, Franz Erhard Walther began to further the discourse on the definition of sculpture set forth by Marcel Duchamp. The relationship between art, artist, and observer shifted into the focus of artistic creation and the role of the art consumer was questioned by inviting their interaction. Long before artists such as Bruce Nauman, among others, used their own bodies as a sculptural medium, Walther has already put himself and the audience into the work as sculptural “material.”

After completing his studies at K. O. Götz, Franz Erhard Walther set out in 1967 for New York. Just two years later, at an exhibition in New York’s MoMA, he showed his legendary “1. Werksatz” – a 58-part work, that today belongs to the museum’s collection. The exhibition visitor was given the possibility of using the works: these could be unfolded, newly arranged according to the visitors’ ideas, organized among several visitors, or stretched out. According to this basic concept, the first publication by Franz Erhard Walther was titled “OBJEKTE, benutzen (objects, use)” (1968). The book, long out of print, will be republished in a new edition on the occasion of the exhibition at ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art.

The active engagement with an artistic offer, experiencing haptics of fabrics and materials, the responsiveness of one’s own physicality and the resulting action in the room are some of the reasons that Franz Erhard Walther’s work is still today an extraordinary contribution to contemporary art. His work can be seen as a synthesis of Process art, Minimal art, and Conceptual art and stands in dialogue with numerous prominent positions within contemporary art.

Curators: Peter Weibel and Andreas F. Beitin

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